Helping Small Business Think Big

Why do some manage via FEAR?

Kurt Nelson, an authority on motivation, writes about the 9 keys to motivating employees and his article is a nice addition to the motivation library.  One of the keys he discusses is the use of Fear.  He writes:

3.  Fear works for only a short time

Often the default motivation lies in the command and control management style that uses fear to motivate behavior change.  The problem with this is that it only works as long as it is monitored and does not produce long lasting change.  Even worse, it creates a lack of trust and loyalty so that people tend to leave the company or sabotage it more often.   It is important to understand that managers often create a fearful situation through ignorance and not on purpose.   This is done through managers actions (or lack of actions) and words (or lack of words) that could be misconstrued or interpreted in the wrong way.  Humans have the innate tendency to think the worse if something has any ambiguity around it.

Excellent points.  Number 3 is particularly intriguing to me.  We’ve all worked for someone who manages via FEAR.  And you are right … it’s not so much on purpose as it is out of ignorance.  They simply are not sure how else to do it.  No one starts out with the idea of managing via Bully Tactics.   Kind hearted, empathetic people promoted to management follow their instincts and seek a different way.  But the majority of folks promoted into management are placed in their roles with no discussion of HOW to act.  If they are not already pre-disposed to building trust and collaboration, they turn to using fear, because it is the obvious way to get short term results.  The solution is to employ clear and timely management training and, in the real world, that rarely happens.  Something to think about the next time you move someone up the ladder.